What is the position of Azerbaijan regarding the Karabakh issue?

As a rule, in the conflict resolution process, the position of the parties to the conflict is formed according to the role they play in this conflict. Particularly in the case of territorial conflicts, the parties to the conflict are divided into the aggressor and the victim or victims of the aggression.[1] In the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Azerbaijan has suffered as the result of Armenian aggression: it lost 20% of its territories, up to one million of its citizens were displaced, the infrastructure of the occupied territories collapsed, and the damage to the economy is estimated in billions of dollars as a result of the First Karabakh War. These are official facts identified by Azerbaijan as a result of the conflict developing into war, and before the Second Karabakh War its position in the settlement process was based on them.

Despite tremendous losses, since the initial stage of the settlement process, Azerbaijan demonstrated that it wants the conflict to be resolved by peaceful means only. Therefore, during the negotiation process, it remained faithful to the principles adopted by the OSCE Minsk Group. As a “principal” party to the conflict, Azerbaijan had adhered to the peace format structured by the OSCE Minsk Group and had adopted a constructive position for settling the conflict.

The official strategy of the Azerbaijan government was to liberate all occupied territories, return all displaced persons to their lands, and establish lasting peace and stability not only in the Nagorno-Karabakh region but also in the South Caucasus. Azerbaijan demanded that the conflict be settled in accordance with the principles of respect for territorial integrity. Therefore, it repeatedly stressed that none of the occupied regions of Azerbaijan would be compromised.[2]

Azerbaijan believed that establishing the status of Nagorno-Karabakh was the final stage of the settlement process and that it should be determined peacefully, with direct, full, and equal participation by the entire population of the region within the framework of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.[3]

Under the terms of the negotiation process, several steps should be taken before the self-rule status of Nagorno-Karabakh was discussed, as this would be the final stage of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement process. The steps proposed officially by Baku were as follows. First, Armenian troops should be withdrawn from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan within a fixed timeframe.[4] Second, refugees and IDPs should be returned to their places of origin to restore the pre-war demographic situation in the region. Third, until the final status of Nagorno-Karabakh was determined, interaction should be established between the Azerbaijan government and local authorities of the Armenian community. Fourth, in order to establish suitable conditions for peaceful co-existence, communications and economic relations should be reinstated between local authorities of the Armenian community and Azerbaijan.[5] Finally, education and tolerance programs should seek to establish humanitarian cooperation. Only when these stages had been implemented parties to the conflict should talk about determining the legal status of the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Thus, the official position of Azerbaijan remained unchanged, that the conflict should be settled through diplomatic efforts. However, by increasing its military budget, speeding up the delivery of weapons, developing the national defense industry, and increasing the use of war rhetoric by its top officials, Armenia indicated that it intends to ‘settle the conflict’ by any means possible for the favour of Armenia, which paved the way to the outbreak of the Second Karabakh War of 2020.

When the Trilateral Statement was signed on November 10, 2020, Azerbaijan and Armenia engaged a negotiation for having final peace over the Karabakh issue. Since that time on, Azerbaijan intends to conduct peace talks with Armenia on the basis of the following five principles proposed to Armenia by official Baku for the normalization of relations between the two countries:

  • Mutual recognition of respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, inviolability of internationally recognized borders and political independence of each other;
  • Mutual confirmation of the absence of territorial claims against each other and acceptance of legally binding obligations not to raise such a claim in future;
  • Obligation to refrain in their inter-State relations from undermining the security of each other, from threat or use of force both against political independence and territorial integrity, and in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the UN Charter;
  • Delimitation and demarcation of the state border, and establishment of the diplomatic relations;
  • Unblocking of the transportation and other communications, building other communications as appropriate, and establishment of cooperation in other fields of mutual interest.[6]

[1] Dinstein, Yoram, War, Aggression and Self-Defence (Cambridge University Press, 2003), p. 106.

[2] “Foreign Ministry: Azerbaijan’s position on the settlement of Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is clear and unchangeable,” AzərTac, May 5, 2020; https://azertag.az/en/xeber/Foreign_Ministry_Azerbaijans_position_on_the_settlement. Accessed on December 4, 2022.

[3] Mammadov, Akbar, “FM: Azerbaijan’s position on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict unwavering,” August 12, 2020; https://www.azernews.az/karabakh/167941.html. Accessed on December 4, 2022.

[4] “Speech by Ilham Aliyev at the 65th session of the United Nations General Assembly,” September 23, 2010; https://en.president.az/articles/764. Accessed on December 4, 2022.

[5] Mammadov, Akbar, “FM: Azerbaijan’s position on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict unwavering,” August 12, 2020; https://www.azernews.az/karabakh/167941.html. Accessed on December 4, 2022.

[6] Mehdiyev, Mushvig, “Azerbaijan Submits Basic Principles for Normalization of Relations to Armenia,” Caspian News, March 15, 2022; https://caspiannews.com/news-detail/azerbaijan-submits-basic-principles-for-normalization-of-relations-to-armenia-2022-3-15-0/. Accessed on December 4, 2022.